As most of you know, there is currently an outbreak of measles in the U.S. The ongoing outbreak in California linked to a visitor to Disneyland has grown to over 100 cases in several states. The virus has spread rapidly among unvaccinated individuals. Closer to home, one adult was diagnosed with measles at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights at the end of January, and a cluster of 5 infants under the age of 1 year in one daycare room in Palatine were diagnosed with measles last week. As of now, the two incidents appear to be unrelated, and the source of the daycare cluster is still unclear. Any exposed children who were unvaccinated have been quarantined at home for three weeks, until the incubation period has passed, to reduce risk of transmission. Understandably, the news of this cluster of measles cases has caused many parents to become alarmed about the possibility of measles exposure and the risk to their children.
First, it is important to know that the MMR vaccine is highly effective in measles prevention. The first vaccine is recommended at age 12 months. 95% of kids who get one shot will be immune to measles. The booster is recommended between ages 4 and 6 years. After the two-shot series, 98% of kids are immune to measles. Keeping up with the recommended vaccine schedule and encouraging your family and friends to do the same is the best way to protect your kids. Second, herd immunity protects communities from measles becoming widespread. Herd immunity for measles starts waning when vaccination rates fall below 95%. Finally, for very young infants, maternal antibodies that are passed on through the placenta protect the infant from measles for the first 6 months after birth.
As of now, there is no recommendation for vaccination with MMR of infants ages 6 to 12 months. Current recommendations from the local and state health departments are to continue following the routine vaccine schedule for MMR. Infants in this age group are given the vaccine early if they are travelling internationally or possibly if they have been directly exposed to someone with measles. However, one of the reasons the vaccine is not routinely given or recommended before the age of one year is that the immune response is not robust, so the vaccine will not be as effective. If a child does receive the MMR vaccine before one year of age, he or she would require a second shot between the ages of 12 and 15 months, and a third shot between the ages of 4 and 6 years.
Our office has received some calls regarding whether or not to avoid going to public places or avoid travel in general. As of now, the risk of contracting measles even for babies is still very low. Therefore we are not recommending restricting your child’s usual activities, nor your family’s travel plans.
If you suspect that your child may have symptoms of measles, please call our office so that we can appropriately triage and arrange for care while minimizing the risk of transmission. The public health department is involved in all measles testing and will have specific recommendations and provide guidance.
At Kids Health Partners, we strongly believe that childhood vaccinations are a very important part of keeping children healthy, and we are certain of the safety of childhood vaccinations. We encourage all our families to vaccinate their children according to the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) and CDC (Center for Disease Control) schedule.
We will continue to monitor new developments and keep you updated as the situation evolves. As always, call our office if you have specific questions or concerns.